Choosing the right wood for smoking meat

There are many types of wood for smoking meat, and choosing just the right one is essential. Different types of wood produce unique flavors and different types of trees have unique compositions and burning points.

As there are many types of wood, some will give your meat a smooth flavor, and others will give the meat punchy flavors. You can also smoke other foods along with the meat so you can have more different flavors in your meals, so we added some foods beyond meat that get a nice flavor from each type of wood. See the main woods for smoking and how to combine each of them in your menu:

What is the Best Wood for Smoking Meat?

Orange tree

It gives a citrus touch with freshness and spiciness just right for smoking long-lasting roasts.

  • Type: semi-hard
  • Intensity: smooth
  • Smoke flavor: citrus and fruity
  • Use with: beef, pork, sheep


It has a subtle flavor with a natural sweetness. This lighter wood is an excellent choice for any fish, especially for smoking salmon.

  • Type: semi-hard
  • Intensity: smooth
  • Smoke flavor: delicate and sweet
  • Use with: vegetables, salmon, sole, pork, chicken and fruit


It gives smooth and subtle sweetness. Because it has such a delicate flavor, it cannot stand the heavy flavors of red meat. For this, try a blend of appletree with stronger woods, such as oak or mesquite.

  • Type: semi-hard
  • Intensity: medium
  • Smoke flavor: sweet and fruity
  • Use with: poultry, fish, seafood, pork, veal, vegetables, fruit

Cherry tree

The smoke of this wood gives the meat a rich mahogany color and is great when mixed with oak, walnut or alder.

  • Type: semi-hard
  • Intensity: medium
  • Smoke flavor: sour and fruity
  • Use with: poultry, fish, seafood, pork, veal, vegetables, fruit

Pecan nut

It can give pungent and bitter flavor if used in excess, but it gives a delicate flavor to meats when used correctly.

  • Type: hard
  • Intensity: strong
  • Smoke flavor: sweet
  • Use with: desserts, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, poultry, pork


It works well with any type of meat because it is versatile. It is stronger than apple and cherry, however lighter than mesquite and walnut.

  • Type: hard
  • Intensity: medium
  • Smoke flavor: rustic and bold
  • Use with: beef, poultry, cheeses, desserts


It gives a balanced flavor to the food, making it a popular choice for poultry, vegetables, and cheese. The sweet smoke from the maple also leaves the meat with a dark appearance. And it is great when mixed with woods such as oak, apple or alder.

  • Type: hard
  • Intensity: smooth
  • Smoke flavor: sweet and subtle
  • Use with: poultry, pork, trout, salmon


Many people confuse the flavor released by this wood with bacon. It has a dark, strong and pungent smoke that adds sweet flavors to the dishes, so you should be very careful because the excess of hickory leaves a bitter taste in the meat. Some say it is the best wood for smoking turkey.

  • Type: hard
  • Intensity: strong
  • Smoke flavor: sweet and aggressive
  • Use with: pork, bacon, turkey, steak

What kind of wood is used for smoking meat?

I covered some of these in the article that I wrote THE ABCs OF BBQ-Smoking the meat edition – Ruthless Reviews.

Can you use any wood to smoke meat?

I use a variety of woods for smoke depending on what is on the BBQ. Hickory, oak and mesquite are popular and do a fine job on most meats. Apple and cherry wood can be quite good, especially with some pork dishes. One unusual wood I use is English walnut hulls. These are quite good for smoking a steak or chicken and can be used on other meats successfully as well.

What’s the best wood for smoking fish?

I prefer smoked fish, as I feel the varieties of tastes and curing times you can impart to the fish is amazing. It can be practically raw as in gravlax or lox, or it can be bbq tips, or ultimately salmon jerky, and everything in between.

Can you use apple wood to smoke beef?

We had a smokehouse when I was a kid. Dad always swore by Hickory. He kept the wood for smoking separate from what we used for heating.

Final Verdict

If you came in here as a beginner wanting to smoke some meat, now you know where to start. There are other types of woods that you will be able to explore along the way, but this handful listed above is already a good starting point. Now go smoke beef, pork, turkey and other foods as well and rejoice with deep flavors given by the smoke of different woods.

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